1 small onion, peeled and small diced
3/4 cup chopped celery
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, small diced
1 large green bell pepper, small diced
2 carrots, peeled and small diced
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 quart Swanson's chicken broth + 2 cans
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies (12-oz. size)
6 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 lbs. fresh sheepshead, filleted and trimmed
1/2 stick butter as needed
2 tsp. Frank Davis Seafood Seasoning
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 fresh lemon, cut into wedges

First off, prep all your ingredients- chop the onions and the celery, mince the garlic, wash and cut the bell peppers, dice the carrots, and slice the shallots. Then heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, large skillet and saute the veggies until they clear and while (it is not necessary to brown them).

Next, pour the quart of chicken broth into an 8-quart soup pot and bring it to a rapid boil. When the broth is rolling, transfer the sauteed veggies from the skillet to the pot and stir in the Rotels, the fresh diced tomatoes, half of the green onions, the basil, the thyme, the bay leaves, and the red pepper flakes. Then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the soup stock for roughly 30 minutes.

In the meantime, meticulously trim away any trace of the bloodline on the sheepshead fillets and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.

Then increase the heat under the skillet you used to saute the veggies, drop in a pat or two of butter, lightly sprinkle the fish fillets with seafood seasoning, and begin searing them in the butter until they turn a light toasty brown. Continue to add pats of butter from time to time until all the fillets are done.

As they become crusted over, gently remove them from the skillet one at a time and place them down into the simmering broth. Then when they're all in the soup pot, reduce the fire to low, gently stir everything around once more very quickly until totally combined, and allow the soup to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes uncovered. Then just before you're ready to serve, adjust the salt and pepper once again to your taste, if necessary, and add extra chicken broth if so desired.

All that's left is to ladle out the soup into heavy crockery bowls, garnish with a sprinkling of the fresh parsley, spritz on a few drops of lemon juice, and top each bowl with a little dab of the remaining butter. I know it's healthier if you don't do it, but I always have to have just a little crusty French bread on the side in case I want to do a little soppin'.


Chef's Notes:
1. Yes, use the liquid in the Rotel can! Do not discard it! It becomes part of the soup!

2. To keep some of the fish in chunks and to avoid breaking up the remainder into flakes, I recommend that you cut the sheepshead into 2 x 2 inch squares before you saute them and put them down into the soup pot.

3. One of the things that makes this soup so special for Mardi Gras parades is that it can be made days in advance, reheated just before parade time, pack it up into a big Thermos bottle, and carry it out onto the streets with you (with that loaf of French bread, of course). It makes those chilly Carnival nights more comforting!